FOR allegedly maligning him and his family, Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr. on Tuesday filed a libel complaint against Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th.
Binay filed the complaint against Trillanes before the Office of the Makati City Prosecutor after the Senator accused him of bribery, irregularities and other crimes “without factual basis.”
The complaint stemmed from allegations of Trillanes that Binay bribed members of the 6th Division of the Court of Appeals (CA) by paying them millions of pesos in exchange for favorable action on his prayer for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and writ of preliminary injunction against his suspension order.
The senator earlier alleged that lawyer Pancho Villaraza facilitated the transaction to pay off CA Associate Justices Jose Reyes Jr. and Francisco Acosta in exchange for issuing the TRO against Binay’s suspension.
For the first TRO, Trillanes said the judges received P20 million each, citing “reliable sources.”
The senator added that CA justices then got P5 million each for issuing the writ of permanent injunction recently.
Trillanes’ interview that touched on the alleged bribery, Binay said, was aired last April 7 over several radio and television programs across the country.
The Makati mayor cited a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer last April 8 directly quoting Trillanes as saying he and his family were “part of a syndicate” that has committed various crimes and irregularities.
In filing the libel complaint, Binay said it was evident from the media interview of Trillanes and the subsequent article published in the Inquirer that he had made the statements “despite the utter lack of evidence.”
“The damaging and ruinous claims spewed out by respondent Trillanes are mere concoctions and fabrications with no other purpose than to malign, discredit, ruin my reputation and besmirch my good name as well as that of my family,” the mayor noted.
Binay pointed out that Trillanes himself had admitted during the interview that he had no valid proof or factual basis for his pronouncements.
“They were clearly made with no good intention or justifiable motive,” he said.
Based on the actual interview, the senator appeared “evasive” when asked directly by reporters how he came to know about the alleged bribery.
Instead, Trillanes, a former Navy officer, cited his use of “intelligence,” which he said was military parlance for information gathered for purposes of “decision-making.”
In his complaint, Binay said the acts of Trillanes in connection with the defamatory statements made against him constitute a violation of Article 355 in relation to Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code.
The mayor cited a Supreme Court ruling (Jurado, 243 SCRA 239, 1995) Stating, “No bona fide efforts having been made to ascertain the truth of such statements before they were written and published in reckless disregard of the truth, the presumption of malice applies as these article[s]are not privileged communication.”
Binay said the libelous statements made by Trillanes in public were “attended with malice in fact as they were prompted by ill will and spite inasmuch as they have no factual basis whatsoever and were not made in response to duty, but only with obvious intention to injure my reputation as well as those of my family.”
Meanwhile, a lawmaker said the Senate cannot investigate the CA justices who were accused of receiving bribes from Binay.
Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, a lawyer, made the statement also on Tuesday in light of Trillanes accusing Acosta and Reyes of bribery.
“The Senate does not have jurisdiction [over the]CA justices. In terms of disciplinary actions on CA justices and all of the justices even those in lower courts, the power is solely with the Supreme Court because there is separation of powers,” Rodriguez pointed out.
It “would only assume jurisdiction [over]them [justices]in case of an impeachment trial.
If he [Trillanes] has evidence, it is his duty to present proof that money changed hands, and he will have to present it [proof]before the Supreme Court,” he said.
The last time that the Senate impeachment court convicted a magistrate was when it found then-Chief Justice Renato Corona guilty of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution in May 2012 because of undeclared wealth worth millions of pesos.
House Justice panel vice chairman Rey Umali of Oriental Mindoro echoed Rodriguez’s call for Trillanes to come clean.
“He should present evidence. Under the rule of law, storytelling won’t get you anywhere. You have to stand your ground with evidence and witnesses,” Umali, also a lawyer, said.